CDC Finds Link Among Patients Exposed to Hepatitis - 8 News NOW

Edward Lawrence, Reporter

CDC Finds Link Among Patients Exposed to Hepatitis

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Dr. Dipak Desai is at the center of the investigation into the hepatitis C outbreak. Dr. Dipak Desai is at the center of the investigation into the hepatitis C outbreak.

The health district has positively identified two patients who were the source of where the hepatitis strain came from. They also identified a ninth case and the source of two of the hepatitis C strains.

There will also be no more public notifications to get tested, and the health district does not expect to see any more acute hepatitis cases related to the unsafe medical procedures of reusing syringes and failing to sterilize medical equipment.

Nine people now know they contracted hepatitis C at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada and the Desert Shadow Endoscopy Center. Eight of the cases are acute, meaning severe symptoms show up immediately. The latest case linked is the chronic form, meaning symptoms may never show.

Southern Nevada Health District Senior Epidemiologist Brian Labus says the acute form shows itself within six months of infection, "Really, by the end of the month I think we can comfortably say, ‘I don't think we will have any more acute cases related to the Endoscopy Center because we past that time period.'"

Labus told the health district medical board at their meeting there will also be no more notifications for the public to get tested. The health district says they contacted, or tried to contact, 63,000 people between the Endoscopy and Desert Shadow Centers.

"We have covered everyone that could have been exposed," said Labus.

The most startling information for board members is that doctors at the Endoscopy Center knew a patient had hepatitis C before starting his procedure. Labus says doctors and nurses still reused the patient's syringe and single dose vial of medicine anyway.

"The source patient in September was a known hepatitis C chronic carrier," asked SNHD Board Member Dr. Joe Hardy.

"Yes," replied Labus.

"Before the scope was done?" asked Hardy.

"Yes," replied Labus.

"On the medical record?" asked Dr. Hardy.

"Yes," said Labus.

But the health district investigation is not finished.

"It's likely that we will find other cases. We cannot link them as definitely to the clinic. We will describe them as possibly associated cases," said Labus.

So far there are 77 of those cases. Also, test results for 80 of the 120 patients seen on the two days the health district narrowed in on -- July 25 and September 21, 2007. The hepatitis C source patients were seen on those days.

In the criminal investigation, there's a breakthrough. Sources say nurses involved in the procedures have given statements about the unsafe medical practices. It may be a couple more months before charges are filed.

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